Maybe Odell Beckham Jr. is staying away from non-contact* practices because of their non-contact* nature.
That’s one of the potential takeaways from comments produced Friday by the Giants regarding first-round rookie tight end Evan Engram. Engram comes to the NFL with a reputation for being a subpar blocker. He knows it, and the Giants know it.
“That’s one of, I guess people would call a downfall under my game,” Engram said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
Instead of accepting the fact that, like so many other pass-catching tight ends, Engram is there to run routes and catch footballs, the Giants seem determined to make Engram into a blocking tight end. Engram seems determined to oblige.
“I’m willing to show my worth in that aspect and I think if I really become great in that aspect of the game and be a force with that I’ll just be a better all-around player,” Engram said, and he’s right. As recently explained regarding the return to relevance of Marcedes Lewis in Jacksonville, a tight end who can both block and catch helps the offense conceal its intentions before the snaps.
And given the non-contact* nature of offseason workouts, the process of Engram improving his blocking should begin in earnest during training camp, when real blocking can occur. But some sort of blocking appears to have already begun.
“I don’t see him backing down,’’ tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride said regarding Engram. “He has a toughness and a willingness to go against anyone on our defense and I’m hoping that remains through the course of this season.’’ Head coach Ben McAdoo added that Engram during practice “shows that he is willing as a blocker.”
It’s impossible to know whether the Giants have more contact in their non-contact* practices than other teams, because no one wants to talk about the limits of offseason non-contact* workouts — until someone violates the rules, loses a week of offseason workouts, a pile of cash, and potentially (eventually) draft picks. The NFL’s official position is to refer to the labor deal, which creates a bright line that would keep Engram or anyone else from engaging in any kind of activity from which the player would ever be “backing down” or showing “a toughness and a willingness to go against anyone on our defense.”
Since Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t seem to be willing to directly state why he chose not to attend OTAs, it’s possible that he prefers to limit his non-contact* offseason work to the actual and literal absence of contact. And it would be hard to blame him for that. Plenty of injuries (like Taylor Decker’s 4-6 month busted shoulder) happen during non-contact* workouts, and Beckham has been through the process enough times now to realize that non-contact* practices may be hazardous to his health.